Forsberg, Foote return to Avs' lineup against Wild

The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild began a frantic final push for the playoffs and division crown on Monday.

And the Avs got some big help at just the right time. Forward Peter Forsberg proclaimed himself healthy after practice on Sunday and returned to Colorado's lineup against the Wild.

Forsberg missed the last week with a groin injury. The 34-year-old was acquired with only six weeks in the system to boost Colorado's playoff chances. Forsberg was rehabbing a foot injury when he signed.

The Avalanche also added another past Colorado star in defenseman Adam Foote. He's been out with a hip injury but made his return Monday.

It's the first of three remaining meetings between the Avs and Wild, who are part of a three-way tie with Calgary atop the division. Vancouver -- the eighth-place team in the Western Conference -- is only two points back.

Seven of Colorado's remaining nine games are against the Wild, Flames or Canucks, while seven of Minnesota's final 10 contests are against its top Northwest competition.

"As always, the next game is the biggest one for us," Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom said.

The Wild (38-26-8) pulled into a tie with Colorado with a 2-0 win over Los Angeles on Saturday, as Backstrom earned his first shutout in more than five months to help Minnesota end a five-game losing streak.

Backstrom stopped 24 shots and made Minnesota's two goals -- the amount the Wild have scored in six of the past seven games -- more than enough for the win.

"If we want to make the playoffs, that's the way it has to be," said Backstrom, whose last shutout was 2-0 over Edmonton on Oct. 10. "I have to be there and make the saves when the team needs that and help them so they don't have to score four or five goals every night."

Marian Gaborik scored one of Minnesota's goals Saturday, leaving him two shy of his career high of 38. The Wild are 22-2-2 when he scores, but he hasn't recorded a goal in three games against Colorado this season.

The Wild won all three of those games anyway, but the Avalanche (39-28-6) beat them twice this season when Gaborik was sidelined with a groin injury.

Colorado was without forwards Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic when Minnesota beat the Avs 3-2 on Jan. 24. The Avalanche had both players in uniform Monday, as Smyth returned from a concussion in Saturday's 4-2 loss to New Jersey.

Sakic recorded his 999th assist in that game, but Colorado lost for just the second time in the last 10 games.

"It wasn't one of our better performances in the last two weeks," Sakic said. "We need to put this one behind us now. We have nine [games] left in our division, all four-point games. We have to be ready for those."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.